This blog is a response to:
Canada’s conservative government again reveals their plan to control private morality and women – and they are using the current G8 conference to do so – starting with non-Canadian women.
In Canada, abortion is a medical proceedure covered by our universal health care: A Brief History of Abortion in Canada
- Prior to 1969, abortion was illegal and punishable by life in prison to any participants
- After 1969, abortion was legal in hospitals and with the approval of a 3 person panel if the women’s health was in peril – health being undefined.
- In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada declared the abortion section of the Criminal Code to be in violation of s.7 of the Charter of Rights.
Since then, there’s been no abortion legislation.
Canada cast their eyes south to see how the public screamfest over the issue has divided that country and we collectively seemed to have sucked up our view as “Well, I wouldn’t do it, but it’s not really for me to say for others.”
Canada has a small population of US-lite style abortion opponents that any politician who raises abortion as a platform plank is pretty much guaranteed to lose the election.
Which is why politicians tread lightly around issues of rights. Which is why they don’t make bold statements – even PM Harper when he promised to revisit the recently passed gay marriage laws, didn’t oppose it as hard when trying to repeal it as when he tried to prevent it passing.
In Canada, we are loath to take away rights or diminish them, even when we don’t agree with them. And mostly, we don’t like politicians taking away rights – and PM Harper’s attempt to do so, I think did a lot to make people realize that gays and lesbians weren’t being treated fairly and the public opposition to gay marriage went down.
Much like the public opinion on abortion in Canada is increasingly that it’s a private matter which is impolite to discuss in public.
But PM Harper’s out of the blue stance on abortion in this context, throws into a harsher light earlier actions.
One of PM Harper’s first actions when becoming PM was to remove “Equality” from the Department of Status of Women.
While this doesn’t take away the Charter guarantee of equality – which is actually a right that is supreme to all other rights in th charter – it is a symbolic erosion, but also a practical one. The upshot means that the Department can’t give funding to women’s organization who’s main focus is to actually achieve practical equality.
It is not palatable to lose rights dramatically – but it’s that frog in the pot situation – quick heat and it jumps out, slow rising heat and the increasing temperature becomes the new normal – until it’s too late to jump out and there’s just frog soup.
If Canada is to be a world leader and example of human rights and dignity, we cannot have one set of rights for people in Canada and insist on a lessor set for people outside of Canada.
As an aside, our inside Canada is far from fair or equal as long as Native Canadians live under different legislation and on reservations where they aren’t allowed to own property individually – which means no collateral so limited participation in Canada’s economy.
International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda, who, incidentally, was the minister of Status of Women at the time it was mostly dismantled in mandate, offices and staff by PM Harper, said at the current G8 conference, “We’re not debating abortion, we’re clarifying family planning.”
To which I say, how can you family plan while being denied access to means to limit family size?
Abortion may be necessary in a variety of scenarios, it makes no sense for Canada who includes abortion as an option to be the lead nation demanding it not be an option for other countries.
It is not the case that in most countries that women are free to chose sexual partners – women are subjected to violence, rape and threats of death. Often sanctioned by governments or militaries in the use of rape camps filled with the women of the conquered people.
Canada’s reality is far removed from most other nations, and we cannot act like other countries are where Canada is in rights or safety on the streets. We have to help the other countries to get there.
Is this the next step in PM Harper and this conservatives to try to roll back the clock in Canada to their idealized 1950’s? You know, the one where there was no Elvis to turn girls onto sex.
As for NDP MP Megan Leslie – yes, children are dying in the tens of thousands as the G8 fiddles.
There have been many studies that link poverty, abortion and social injustice. We are never going to achieve a reduction of world poverty until women legally have control over their own reproduction and access to safe services to carry out their wishes.
That means sexual education, contraceptives, enforced anti-rape laws, enforced equality rights and yes, abortion on demand regardless of the reason.
“Empowering girls is key to breaking the vicious circle of ill-health and violence. It should be at the center of all actions targeted towards the elimination of violence against women and girls.”
UN’s International Sexual and Reproductive Rights Coalition, 2006 Statement
Women who are equal, who have the ability to limit their family size, who can participate in the economy – will not have to engage in a stragety of having a large number of children in the hopes that a smaller number will survive to adulthood. Women will be able to have the 2 children who would have survived and put all her resources into them, rather than spreading those same resources over 6 to 8 children, who will all suffer and be sickly.
Empowerment includes reproductive control, education, access to contraceptives, to safe abortion, to legal protections and rights.
Unsafe abortion persists as a serious health problem for women. It is rooted in poverty, social inequity, and denial of women’s basic human rights. As experience from Latin America and other regions demonstrates, obstetrician-gynecologists can be leaders in supporting reproductive rights and access to safe abortion, through their professional societies and also by way of their roles as providers, academicians, and advocates. Ob-gyns are often most effective when working in partnership with women’s organizations, lawyers, and other stakeholders.